The Bears’ quest for the Calder Cup started with a visit from another cup.
Despite the Hershey Bears’ 2-1 loss to the Bridgeport Sound Tigers on Sunday, October 7th, the star attraction was the appearance of the Stanley Cup. When the Washington Capitals, the NHL affiliate team, won the Stanley Cup in June 2018, it was a personal victory for many Bears’ players. Getting the cup to Hershey was an organizational feat coordinated by the Bears’ Head of Public Relations Zach Fish.
“Fourteen Bears were on the roster that all got cup rings. It was definitely pretty special,” Fish said.
After a scoreless first period, Bridgeport scored on a 5 on 3 power play midway through the second period. Former Hershey Bears player Chris Bourque scored on a slap shot over Bears goalie Vitek Vanecek. It was Bourque’s first goal of the season.
Hershey’s newly acquired forward, Mike Sgarbossa, found himself on a breakaway in the second period. Alone against Bridgeport’s goalie, Jeremy Smith, Sgarbossa knotted the game at a goal a piece. The goal was assisted by #10 Shane Gersich and #27 Aaron Ness.
Later, Hershey’s lack of discipline had resulted in another Bridgeport power play which enabled the Sound Tigers to take the lead. #37 Steve Bernier scored the go-ahead goal for the Sound Tigers. The goal was assisted by #4 Mitchell Vande Sompel and #17 Michael Dal Colle.
Neither team would light the lamp again even though the Bears attempted by pulling the goalie for the extra attacker.
Despite the loss, the Bears did have some good news. They introduced a new Alternate Captain, Riley Barber, who was pleased to be appointed to the position.
“It is a huge honor to be a leader. It is just great to be a part of this leadership group and help the young guys develop,” said Barber.
Barber has played for the Bears for three seasons. Last year, Barber even earned a three game call-up to the Bears’ parent team the Washington Capitals.
This season the Bears are a young team with several promising prospects. One player to watch is winger Mason Mitchell. Before joining the Bears last year, Mitchell played two years for the University of Alaska as well as six games for the South Carolina Stingrays of the ECHL. In 29 games, Mitchell scored a goal and notched four assists.
The mix of young players, like Mitchell, has been both an asset and a challenge.
“Our greatest strength would be our speed. We are definitely a quick team, but we could definitely improve on our chemistry since we’re younger than usual,” said Mitchell.
The man who is tasked with building team chemistry and achieving a winning season is Bears’ new head coach, Spencer Carberry.
Carberry last coached the Bears’ ECHL (East Coast Hockey League) affiliate, the South Carolina Stingrays. Carberry was the winningest coach in Stingrays’ history, including the ECHL Coach of the Year Award in 2014, 2015, and in 2016.
Back in Carberry’s playing days, he laced up his skates for the Stingrays in 2008-2009 and 2009-2010. During the 08-09 season, Carbery played 39 games, and he had 12 goals and 7 assists. During his final season in 2009-2010, Carberry played 59 games, and he put up 10 goals and 19 assists.
After the game, Carberry said, “It was exciting a couple days ago, but now it’s a huge honor. The last few days leading up to opening weekend have been awesome. Being in this organization and community have been a really great 24 hours.”
Coaches and players alike dream of one day being able to lift the cup.
Zach Fish jumped on the chance to get the cup to Hershey.
“We called up to Washington, and they got in contact with the Hockey Hall of Fame. They knew it was important to get it here with all of the Alumni. With the crazy line to see the cup, you can tell how passionate these fans were to see the cup,” said Fish.
Fish also said that this is not the first time the Stanley Cup has made an appearance in Hershey. It has appeared a couple times before, but this is the first time though since affiliation with Caps. Fish also commented on the Capitals’ affiliation history with the Bears.
“This affiliation has been since 2005. It is very successful – we have won 3 championships, and the Caps just won their first,” said Fish.
The Bears also honored the recent Stanley Cup champions by wearing specialty jerseys modeled after the Capitals’ jerseys. After the game, the jerseys were auctioned off with the intent of benefiting a multitude of charities. One charity in particular was American Specialty Hockey; their mission is to promote hockey for everyone – no matter what.
The jerseys were the most liked post on Instagram. Fish stated “they will probably start around $500, with the new guys selling for less compared to the veterans who will go for much more. Like for example, Liam O’Brien’s jersey could auction for over $1000.”
Hershey veteran, Liam O’Brien, was a part of the Bears’ franchise last year when the Caps won the Stanley Cup.
“It was a real treat,” said O’Brien, “It was awesome – such a great feeling watching former teammates raise the cup.”